Hinduism is divided into two major sects Saivites and Vaishnavites. The former are worshippers of Lord Shiva while the latter are the devotees of Lord Vishu. Since time immemorial Shiva’s devotees worship their lord in the form of Shivalingam or the resplendent light. This symbolizes that God is formless and is worshipped as a source of light. It is also believed that Lord Shiva appeared in this form to his devotees.
The specialty of Jyothirlingam is that the lingas are self born also known as Svayambhu. Hindus have immense faith that in-taking the holy offerings made to the Lingas called Naivedyam is sacred. In the Indian subcontinent the 12 jyotrilingams hold a special place. The jyotrilingams are located across various topography including river banks, mountains, sea shore and in villages. It is believed that devotees who visit these shrines are blessed with peace of mind, salvation and enlightenment.
The 12 jyotrilingams are located in Somnath, Mallikarjun, Mahakaleshware, Omkareshwar, Vaidyanath, Nageswar, Kedareswar, Tryambakeswar, Rameshwaram, Bhimashankar, Visweswar and Ghrishneswar. The southernmost is located in Rameshwaram and the northern most in the snowy mountains of Himalayas the Kedarnath. Each temple is associated with legends. The origin of the lingas is elaborated in Hindu puranas.
Devotees who visit all the 12 Jyothirlingam shrines in one lifetime are considered to be fortune and get relief from birth cycles. Chanting the Sanskrit sloka that enlists the 12 Jyothirlingam sites is considered to be auspicious and can bring happiness and peace. The important festival associated with these temples is the Maha Shivaratri or Shivratri.